England have launched a coaching revolution by separating Test and limited overs cricket. Andy Flower will continue to look after the Test squad but Ashley Giles, director of cricket at Warwickshire and already a selector, has been appointed as head coach of the one-day international and Twenty20 teams.
It is recognition that far too much international cricket is played for one man to supervise effectively. Flower, who will retain his official title of team director, has been in overall charge for nearly four years for most of which England have enjoyed unprecedented success.
Giles, who led Warwickshire to the county championship last season, will take over for the T20 and 50-over matches in India in December and January, for which the squads were named today. He will report to Flower, who will remain responsible for playing strategies.
It was pure happenstance that such a far-reaching change was officially announced in the wake of one of England’s greatest wins. After beating India by 10 wickets on Monday they could have declared the formation of a Five5 competition and the closure of Lord’s and got away with it. But apparently this was always the designated week.
The details were finalised when Giles came out as visiting selector to the First Test at Ahmedabad. Although nobody was saying since it clouds the issue, presumably it makes him favourite to be team director and Test coach should Flower ever depart that role. But that would depend now on ensuring England continue to have decent limited overs teams.
In outlining the change, Hugh Morris, the managing director of England Cricket, said: “We all know how busy and relentless the schedule is. That causes us challenges with really robust planning and preparation because there is simply not enough time to do it. Andy is 44 years of age, he has three young kids, and we also know from the Future Tours Programme that over the next eight years we’re going to have a similar volume of cricket.
“I think we need to have a step change to make sure that we protect our greatest assets, our players and team director and senior management. I do not believe it’s sustainable to have one person looking after all three formats of the game.”
Flower, in common with almost everybody involved in international cricket, spends vast tracts of time away from home. Since taking over at the start of 2009, initially in a caretaker role, he has been on 12 tours varying from three weeks to four months. Morris said he had spent 60 per cent of his time in hotel rooms.
It is indeed a relentless way of life and can become all consuming. The England and Wales Cricket Board have not only recognised their obligation as an employer in the 21st century, by bringing an end to one man doing three jobs, but also see it as a more probable route to success.
Morris spoke of work-life balance and rightly suggested that Flower would be able to watch more county cricket, assessing potential Test players rather than having them thrust upon him on the recommendation of others as he largely does at present. “We have been successful in spite of the schedule,” he said.
In many ways, Flower has been England’s most successful coach. The Test team have won two consecutive Ashes series and briefly became the number one team in the ICC rankings, the one-day team also rose to number one and the Twenty20 side won the world championship before last.
Flower said: “We have talked about what the most effective coaching structure for our national side is and we’re still not sure but we believe that this might be a more efficient use of our resources. With unlimited resources and unlimited high quality coaching staff you might even have two separate coaching teams.”
The man taking over the limited overs teams, with the primary target of guiding England to an inaugural World Cup win in 2015, is a highly popular and respected figure in the game. Giles was part of England’s historic 2005 Ashes winning side before going into coaching. He has also been an England selector for the last four years, which led some to fear there was a conflict of interest between that and his role at Warwickshire.
Innovative though the change is, it may not be quite straightforward in practice. If Flower fervently disagrees with something he would presumably have power of veto even from 10,000 miles away. Nor can Giles be expected to ask Flower every time he wishes to rest, drop or, heaven forbid, discipline a player on a long tour.
“I don’t believe it will be an erosion of authority or influence,” said Flower. “Ashley and I don’t know each that well but we played against each other and have worked quite closely together as selectors. He is a keen student of the game and we both believe we can work together and we’re going to have to work together in a similar way to a captain and a coach.”
Giles’ first squads also recognise that the volume of cricket is too heavy, indeed unsustainable for players. Kevin Pietersen, who has only just rescinded his decision to retire from all international limited overs cricket after making up with the management, has been rested from the two T20 matches against India which are to be played at the end of the Test series. But he will return for the ODIs in January.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann, who is one of three players who has regularly played all three forms of the game, is rested from both series. Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will share the one-day series, with Anderson playing only in India for the first three matches, with the presumed intention that he will also miss the first part of the New Zealand tour, which follows immediately.
There is continuing recognition that T20 is a special form of the game that demands different skills. Four of the 13 players – Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and Luke Wright - are in neither the Test nor ODI squads. The announcement of Flower’s stepping aside will be the forerunner of many changes in the years to come.